Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lots of shock, tons of awe - You can help!

H/T: Susan H

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bombs & explosives are chemical weapons

An eastern blogger, who I previously mentioned in this estimable piece, is a loquacious commentator for a preeminent corporate welfare bum. On his website Saturday, he was cheering for an escalation of death and destruction in Syria, hoping American cruise missiles and strategic bombers would be deployed without delay and concern for legalities.

One of the stated reasons,
"Nearly 1,500 innocent civilians were murdered by Bashar al-Assad on the morning of Aug. 21."
That number is less than certain. According to Propublica and The Guardian, France set the count of dead at 281, Britain had it around 350 and the Americans at 1,429.

Of course, body counts in conflicts are problematic and victims with dark skins are peculiarly challenging to quantify. Some people had the number of war dead in DR Congo at 5.4 million. Others had it closer to 3 million. In the Rwanda genocide, estimates had a half a million to one million dead. Regardless of the numbers, Americans expended little fuel and ammo in central Africa.

Wait 'till you see what the little bombs split up into.
Global interests of America are different in the middle east, especially in countries that border Israel. That results in well orchestrated outrage after someone, intentionally or by accident, deployed poisons against Syrian civilians. Certainly, deaths of people by chemical weapons is appalling. But then, I don't include only volatile agents like Sarin. I include chemical weapons that come in other forms, such as the explosives in $640 million worth of cluster bombs Americans are supplying to Saudi Arabia and in the 1,000 pound warheads delivered by Tomahawk cruise missiles or the 40,000 pounds of bombs in a single B-1 bomber.

Explosions are chemical reactions that instantaneously release large quantities of potentially destructive gases. To some observers of warfare, chemicals that kill with a loud bang are more genteel than silent ones. Thus, we are less offended by explosions, particularly if delivered by smart bombs that promise to kill and maim fewer innocents than unguided versions.

The bombing that President Obama aims to do - with Stephen Harper's ardent support - will visit additional tragedy on the people of Syria and may have unintended consequences. Sure, most targets will be command and control positions but hardened facilities require large munitions, resulting inevitably in significant collateral damage. Even so-called precise weapons are imprecise. The New York Times published a piece that claimed 98% of drone strike victims in Pakistan were civilians, not intended militants. Sadly, everyone in a bombsight is the enemy. The NYT writers noted that violent shows of American force solidified the power of radicals in targeted areas,
"While violent extremists may be unpopular, for a frightened population they seem less ominous than a faceless enemy that wages war from afar and often kills more civilians than militants."
Similar reactions have been evident in other nations where the USA kills with drones. Contrary to Obama's implication, an assault on Syria will not be over in two or three days. This is not a video game that can be turned off or rebooted.

Intending to stop the bloodshed in Syria, Barack Obama and the neo-con hawks, the guys applauding more than a decade of continuous war, aim to do additional, but worthy, humanitarian killing in Syria. It's a dangerous path to follow, more deadly than doing nothing.

So what's another alternative? International sanctions have not been wholly successful but they have not been abject failures. The first aim of peacemakers is to stop the flow of arms and equipment that facilitate warfare. Those come from many G20 nations. Additionally, the civilized world must enforce trade embargoes on all goods except for what JFK called, in the Cuban missile crisis, the necessities of life. Here was Kennedy's first direction on October 22, 1962:
"To halt this offensive buildup a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948."
Is it possible to isolate Assad's Syria? Not completely but sanctions could be effective - Syria's immediate neighbours are American allies -  if western governments would take actions against enterprises that do international dirty business. Instead, typical sanctions are applied on the basis of "Wink wink nudge nudge. Say no more, say no more." By example,
"Member of German Companies Presiding Board: 'Ignore Sanctions against Iran' "
The New York Times ran this piece a few months ago,
"Large amounts of computer equipment from Dell have been sold to the Syrian government through a Dubai-based distributor despite strict trade sanctions intended to ban the selling of technology to the regime..."
Truth is that sanctions only work when the nations imposing them are determined to make them work. If the British were serious, they would not have granted export licences for bulk chemicals useful for weapons. If American were resolute about Syria, Michael Dell would be in jail. But then, America is not in the habit of prosecuting billionaires, it prefers building and deploying armaments. That pleases the billionaires.

Strangely, some of the best commentary comes from humour site The Onion:
Experts Point To Long, Glorious History Of Successful U.S. Bombing Campaigns

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The other 47% watch

Willard Mitt Romney:
"...there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax….”
Romney likely to finish at 47 percent, Greg Sargent, Washington Post Opinions,
"When all the votes are counted, could Mitt Romney really end up achieving perfect poetic justice by finishing with 47 percent of the national vote? Yup. Dave Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report says new votes in from Maryland put Romney at 47.56 percent. He predicts with certainty that with all of New York and California counted, Romney will end up below 47.5 percent of the vote.

"Rounded, of course, that would put the final tally at 51-47. Anticipating this moment, Markos Moulitsas has inaugurated the “Romney 47 percent watch."
Further reading:
Memo To Mitt Romney: The 47% Pay Taxes Too, Janet Novack, Forbes
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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Deep-seated seething fury is 2016 frontrunner

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Did you know?

The Great Star Fleet

At the turn of the 20th Century, the Alaska Packers Association assembled the largest fleet of privately owned sailing ships in the world. It was an era in which the shipping industry was mothballing its sailing ships in favor of faster steam powered vessels.

The APA didn't need speed; it needed low cost cargo haulers to ferry men and supplies north to Alaska to can salmon each spring, and to deliver the non-perishable cargo south each fall in hopes it would sell at a profit. Ultimately, the APA acquired 19 iron and steel full rigged ships and called their armada The Great Star Fleet.

Their operations extended the age of working sail on the Pacific Coast by several decades. View the trailer to see the Star Ships under sail in this excerpt from John Sabella's 2001 documentary Sockeye and the Age of Sail.

Purchase Sockeye and the Age of Sail: The Story of the Alaska Packers Association, a film by John Sabella.
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A caution for Canada's Conservative Party

Six CPC members of Parliament may be deposed if the Federal Court accepts allegations of widespread voter suppression during the May 2011 election. This action, to be heard in December, is separate from the investigation of misconduct by Elections Canada. The CPC faces what one pundit calls "high-stakes drama" but the worst case outcome is not likely to threaten Stephen Harper's immediate hold on power.

However, the Conservatives, having adopted American style dirty politics, should prepare for a taste of retribution like that dished out by targeted voters in the 2012 U.S. election.

On Election Day, Republicans Suffered Consequences of Voter Suppression Strategy, Huffington Post, November 13, 2013
"Republican lawmakers and conservative activists undertook a concerted effort to keep minorities, students and those with lower or fixed incomes (including many of our seniors) from voting."

"...Yet the untold story of the 2012 election is not the efforts of lawyers or activists, but the unyielding determination of everyday ordinary citizens determined to cast their ballots.

"...When the dust settled, the very groups targeted for suppression and intimidation had voted in record numbers..."
In a similar vein, Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic and legal analyst for 60 Minutes, said this,
"Americans don't like it when their right to vote is threatened. The very people whose votes the Republicans sought to suppress came out to vote. In places like Akron and Orlando and Denver and Milwaukee, they came. They waited in long lines and endured the indignities of poll workers. Yet they were not cowed. Today is their day. A day when they can look at one another and appreciate that they are truly a part of the history of civil rights in this country..."
H/T G.G.
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Like Emily Litella, without the never mind

NBC anchor Brian Williams told election night viewers,
"Donald Trump, who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight."

In the final result reported November 20, Obama leads Romney in popular vote by 3.5 million votes. Donald Trump deleted a number of intemperate calls for revolution, but says,
“I have no regrets.”
AS far as Trump is concerned, facts are whatever he decides them to be. It's an attitude shared with despots throughout history.
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Romney admires a "statesman" friend

Romney noted that Beck's "approach is refreshing" and that he "tries to focus his message on action…on learning the principles of freedom and liberty, on standing up and making your voice heard, on reading and applying the wisdom of our nation's founders to the challenges of today." Beck, he asserted, was "a statesman in his own right."

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tax avoidance, crippled services, monster deficits

"The Republicans have got the facts backward. A rising tide definitely raises all boats. They somehow believe that rising boats raise all tides."

William O. Beeman, commenting on Bill, Barack and Us by former NY Times editorial pages editor, now Op-Ed columnist, Gail Collins:
"Isn't it clear that the Republicans believe that everything can be achieved through privatization and individual effort, whereas the Democrats espouse communitarian effort, especially for those projects that are beyond the scope of the individual? The Republicans have got the facts backward. A rising tide definitely raises all boats. They somehow believe that rising boats raise all tides.

"Today I am writing from Europe--a place the right wing despises. Every public facility is planned with care, anticipating the needs of the public. Whatever it is--public parks, transportation, medical care, education--the public gets far more than it puts into the system.

"In the U.S., the raw market-driven economy tries to give people as little as it possibly can for their money in order to maximize private profit. If you got rich by shorting the public, that's fine for you, but for the rest of the country the end of the stick is very short.

"The Europeans have lots of wealthy people among them--they are just not quite as wealthy as the American gazzilionaires and the result is no overt poverty, housing for everyone, care for the unemployed, no need for private transportation for most people and longer life-spans. Isn't that worth the sacrifice of a second or third yacht? Apparently not for the Romney/Ryan crowd, for whom sickness, homelessness, and unemployment are seen as character flaws rather than artifacts of a broken social contract and badly skewed economic system rewarding greed."
H/T: Susan H.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

One reason why the rich stay that way

Harry Reid: Bain Investor Told Me That Mitt Romney 'Didn't Pay Any Taxes For 10 Years', Huffington Post, July 31, 2012
WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has what he says is an informed explanation for why Mitt Romney refuses to release additional tax returns. According a Bain investor, Reid charged, Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It is an old and cruel tactic

The Battle of Blair Mountain, Chris Hedges, Truthdig
"...Reduce wages and benefits to subsistence level. Break unions. Gut social assistance programs. Buy and sell elected officials and judges. Fill the airwaves with mindless diversion and corporate propaganda. Pay off the press. Poison the soil, the air and the water to extract natural resources and leave behind a devastated wasteland.

"Plunge workers into debt. Leave them owing more on their houses than the structures are worth. Make sure the children will be burdened by tens of thousands of dollars lent to them for an education and will be unable to find decent jobs. Make sure that everything from hospital bills to car payments to credit card fees exact increasing pounds of flesh. And when workers stumble, when they cannot pay soaring interest rates, jack up rates further and deploy predators from debt collection agencies to harass the debtors and seize their assets. Then toss them away.

"Company towns all look the same. And we live in the biggest one on earth..."
Sound a lot like Phil Hochstein's philosophy and a little like that of the Canadian Federation of Taxpayers.

Read Wikipedia's Battle of Blair Mountain

H/T Susan H. for the above, Gary L. for the following video

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hero - redefined

Bravery and drone pilots, Glenn Greenwald,, July 10, 2012
"The Pentagon is considering awarding a Distinguished Warfare Medal to drone pilots who work on military bases often far removed from the battlefield...

"So medals would be awarded for sitting safely ensconced in a bunker on U.S. soil and launching bombs with a video joystick at human beings thousands of miles away.
"Justifying drone warfare requires pretending that the act entails some sort of bravery, so the U.S. military is increasingly taking steps to create the facade of warrior courage for drone pilots..."
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Salute democracy while suppressing it

In British online news magazine The Week, Alexander Cockburn gives his take on America. Had he turned eyes north, the American based writer would have noticed similar trends in Canada.
"...if there's any nation in the world that is well on the way to meriting the admittedly vague label of 'fascist', surely it's the United States...

"Attacks on collective bargaining are pervasive. Big money's grip on both parties ensures corporate control no matter who's nominally in charge. Fascist regimes show open contempt for democracy... We salute democracy while suppressing it.

"A fascist regime is the sworn foe of the right to assembly, 'unauthorised' marches and encampments...

"A fascist regime spies obsessively on its citizens. Study US laws on secret surveillance since the Patriot Act and you will find procedures that would have been the envy of the East Germans.

"Ultimately a fascist state claims the right to imprison its victims without term or hope of redress or legal representation. As the executive power, in the form of the president, it claims the right to kill its enemies, whether citizens (Awlaki) or others (Guantánamo), without judicial review. In other words, rule by decree - which is what Hitler's Enabling Act won him in March 1933.

"We live in a fascist country - 'proto-fascist' if you want to allay public disquiet, though there's scant sign that most Americans are disturbed by the trends..."
Further reading: to squash voter suppression lawsuits, Ottawa Citizen,
"...the Conservative Party of Canada has moved aggressively to try to shut down a series of lawsuits seeking to overturn the election of seven other Tory MPs.

"The party filed a 750-page legal brief on Tuesday night, complete with highly political denunciations of the Council of Canadians, the citizen advocacy group sponsoring the challenge of election results.

"The motion is based on an obscure and ancient legal prohibition against “champerty and maintenance” ...

"The motion {calls Council of Canadians] national chairperson, Maude Barlow, a “professional agitator” and “virulent critic” of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"The motion, from Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton, even assails his opposing counsel Steven Shrybman..."
Quebec students mark 100th protest day
Acts of minor treason

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Friday, May 11, 2012

American dichotomy

Mitt Romney is preparing for next week's commencement speech at Liberty University. Appearance at an anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-gay school rated America's 535th best college by Forbes seems fitting for the GOP candidate since Washington Post is reporting that as a high school senior, Romney led a group that swarmed and assaulted a younger student suspected of being gay. He who would be President claims he can't remember the ugly incident but he apologizes for it anyway.

Liberty U was founded by Jerry Falwell, the now recalled preacher who discovered that Tinky Winky was Teletubbies' gay role model. Pastor Jerry also had this explanation for 9/11 tragedies:
“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’”
In another part of America, Barack Obama's explicit support of the right for same-sex couples to marry has stimulated a flood of donations from citizens who agree with the President's statement to Robin Roberts of ABC:
"I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
The New Yorker Magazine provides accent to the presidential statement with next week's cover:

“I am honored to be doing this cover. It’s a celebratory moment for our country, and that’s what I tried to capture. (I don’t especially like those rainbow colors, but they are what they are—I had to use them.) I wanted to celebrate the bravery of the President’s statement—a statement long overdue—but all the more appreciated in this political year. We are on the right side of history.” — Bob Staake, the artist who created “Spectrum of Light,” the cover of next week’s issue.
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Friday, April 27, 2012

Fraud, fear and greed

If Romney Hates Government And Its Workers So Much Why Is He Running For President?, Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future
Mitt Romney says government workers are paid too well and in general government is a bad thing. But he wants to run it. Romney made his fortune by buying companies, laying off the workers, and keeping the money they were making for himself. He apparently thinks everyone but the 1% are paid too well. So maybe that's the plan.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) President John Gage had a few things to say about that:
"...Do you think the meat and poultry inspector who earns less than $32,000 a year while protecting Americans from E. Coli and other deadly diseases is making too much? How about the correctional officer who earns less than $39,000 a year while guarding ruthless gang leaders in understaffed federal penitentiaries? And do you really think that the VA nursing assistant who earns just over $27,000 a year providing care to veterans who have come home with serious psychological trauma is living the high life?"
For Romneys, Friendly Code Reduces Taxes, Nicholas Confessore and David Kocieniewski, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2012:
"Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, made $27 million in 2010. They held millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account and millions more in partnerships in the Cayman Islands. His family’s trusts sold thousands of shares in Goldman Sachs that were offered to favored clients when the storied investment house first went public. The couple’s effective federal tax rate for the year worked out to 13.9 percent, a rate typical of households earning about $80,000 a year."
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

USA's upside-down justice

From Tom Engelhardt's Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, Joining The Whistleblowers' Club
9 years elapsed since "Mission Accomplished"
"... the strange, embattled world of Obama-era governmental whistleblowers. As a group, they are, after all, just about the only people inside the National Security Complex who ever get in trouble for their acts.

"In our era, the illegal surveillers, the torturers, the kidnappers, those who launch and pursue undeclared and aggressive wars, and those who squander taxpayer dollars all run free.

"Later, if they were important enough, they write their memoirs for millions of dollars, peddle their speeches for hundreds of thousands more, and live the good life.

"The only figures in the Complex regularly pursued as troublemakers and possible criminals turn out to be guilty of a single all-American crime: telling the citizenry what they should know about the operations of, and often enough the crimes of, the government they elected..."
Read Peter Van Buren's article: Left Behind, What We Lost in Iraq and Washington, 2009-2012
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Premier Photo Op: Your rich friends mislead

Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators, Nick Hanauer, Bloomberg Businessweek
"I’m a very rich person. As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I’ve started or helped get off the ground dozens of companies in industries including manufacturing, retail, medical services, the Internet and software. I founded the Internet media company aQuantive Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2007 for $6.4 billion. I was also the first non-family investor in Inc.

"Even so, I’ve never been a “job creator.” I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate.

"That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.

"Theory of Evolution

"When businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it is like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around.

"It is unquestionably true that without entrepreneurs and investors, you can’t have a dynamic and growing capitalist economy. But it’s equally true that without consumers, you can’t have entrepreneurs and investors. And the more we have happy customers with lots of disposable income, the better our businesses will do..."

Hat tip to DIGBY, one of America's premier bloggers.
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Cash for kids

Former Judge on Trial in ‘Cash for Kids’ Scheme, JON HURDLE and SABRINA TAVERNISE, New York Times, February 8, 2011
"SCRANTON, Pa. — A former Pennsylvania judge went on trial in federal court on Tuesday, charged with racketeering, bribery and extortion in what prosecutors say was a $2.8 million scheme to send juvenile delinquents to privately run prisons...

"Mr. Ciavarella, now 60, sentenced thousands of young people, funneling them into two private detention centers prosecutors say were run by his friends who slipped him payments in a “cash for kids” scheme..."
America's reliance on mass incarceration has created a thriving prison economy. Great for business, maybe not so great for the nation.

Take note, Stephen Harper. You may be taking us in the same direction.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Obama now leader of the not-free world

Chris Hedges writes:
"The NDAA implodes our most cherished constitutional protections. It permits the military to function on U.S. soil as a civilian law enforcement agency. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to selectively suspend due process and habeas corpus for citizens. The law can be used to detain people deemed threats to national security, including dissidents whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, and hold them until what is termed “the end of the hostilities.” Even the name itself—the Homeland Battlefield Bill—suggests the totalitarian concept that endless war has to be waged within “the homeland” against internal enemies as well as foreign enemies."
Read this and other Chris Hedges columns at Truthdig.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Winners win, losers lose

The Age of Double Standards, Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, March 19, 2012
"...Petty felons and 200,000 small-time drug users do prison time, while corporate criminals whose frauds cost the rest of the economy trillions of dollars are permitted to settle civil suits for small fines, with shareholders bearing the expenses. Ordinary families pay tax at a higher rate than billionaires. When fracking contaminates a property and makes a home uninhabitable, the homeowner rather than the natural-gas company suffers the loss. The mother of all double standards is taxpayer aid and Federal Reserve advances—running into the trillions of dollars—that went to the banks that caused the collapse, while the bankers avoided prosecution, and the rest of the society got to eat austerity.

"Linking all of these disparities between citizens and corporations is the political power of a new American plutocracy. Until our politics connects these dots and citizens start resisting, the financial elite will rule...

"The airline industry is only the extreme case. [No fewer than 189 airlines have declared bankruptcy since 1990.] In the past two decades, the roster of companies that declared bankruptcy includes Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Adelphia, General Motors, Chrysler, Delphi, Kmart, and LTV Steel, not to mention several major financial houses.

"Private-equity companies routinely use Chapter 11 after they bleed dry the operating companies they acquire, load them up with debt, extract capital, and then declare that debts unfortunately exceed assets. Once out of bankruptcy, the company can be sold for more profit. Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s firm, pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars as special dividends from such companies as KB Toys, Dade Behring, Ampad, GS Technologies, and Stage Stores, all of which subsequently filed for bankruptcy. In industries such as steel, airlines, and autos, where good union contracts were once common, one of the biggest appeals of a Chapter 11 reorganization is that contractual pension and retiree health obligations can be swept aside.

"In Chapter 11, even the executives who drove a company into the ground get a second chance. Post-bankruptcy, American Airlines’ president, Tom Horton, was promoted to CEO. And why not? Declaring bankruptcy will save American a small fortune. American, while in bankruptcy, has nonetheless found the money to pay a firm $525,000 a month to advise it on labor cuts. The firm is Bain Capital.

"...So while corporations continue to get a fresh start under Chapter 11, the aftermath of the financial crisis continues to sandbag millions of homeowners and the economy as a whole. This double standard is not just a question of fairness. The selective relief for corporations and banks, but not for the 99 percent, is killing the recovery. None of this will change until the citizenry builds a politics that demands a single standard."
Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, as well as a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books. This piece draws on the themes of a book that Robert Kuttner is completing for Knopf, titled Debtors Prison.

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